League Cup - Gerrard returns as Liverpool oust Brighton

Wed, 21 Sep 21:42:00 2011

Steven Gerrard made a winning return to action as Liverpool resisted a spirited effort from Brighton to complete a 2-1 Carling Cup win in their third round tie at Amex Stadium.

Liverpool's Craig Bellamy (left) and Brighton and Hove Albion's Alan Navarro battle for the ball, September 21 2011 - 0

Gerrard - out for the past six months with a groin injury - replaced Luis Suarez with 15 minutes remaining after Craig Bellamy had handed Liverpool the lead on seven minutes with his first goal in his first start for Liverpool since he returned to the club for a second time last month.

Dirk Kuyt added a second goal on 81 minutes, but Liverpool were made to sweat in injury time after Ashley Barnes slammed home a penalty with Jamie Carragher fouling fellow Brighton substitute Vicente in the box.

Liverpool - winners of the League Cup a record seven times - will take their place in the draw for the fourth round on Saturday. They will be thankful to get back to winning ways after being shredded 4-0 at Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday.

In truth, they should have been out of sight at the break before Brighton launched a fierce attack on the visiting goal in the second half without ever truly testing the Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Bellamy accepted a pass from Suarez to prod the ball beyond the home goalkeeper Casper Ankergren from six yards out for the opening goal as Liverpool set up camp in the Championship side's half.

Brighton forward Craig Mackail-Smith was forced to wallop the ball off his line on 17 minutes from Kuyt's header before the Dutch striker sent Suarez racing clear but the forward fluffed his lines as he slipped the ball wide of goal.

Bellamy then threw over a fine free-kick on 31 minutes only to see Suarez loop a header wide when he seemed likely to hit the target.

Bellamy managed to unleash a venomous free-kick from 35 yards out that dipped and swerved in the air, but came back off the bar with Ankergren rooted to his line, well beaten by the movement of the ball.

Ankergren did palm Jay Spearing's shot from 20 yards or so onto a post before Reina smothered a shot from the impressive Craig Noone as Martin Kelly cleared with Brighton given fresh hope ahead of the second half.

Former Liverpool and Brighton idol Jimmy Case arrived on the pitch to applaud the 22,374 fans inside the shiny new ground as Brighton emerged from the interval looking a whole lot more sprightly.

Noone galloped onto a loose ball from Sebastian Coates only to crack the top of the bar from outside of the area on 47 minutes with Matthew Sparrow forcing Reina to save his shot from inside the area as the home fans suddenly sensed an equaliser.

Brighton's momentum was disrupted when they lost Will Buckley on the hour mark as Vicente was introduced, but Gus Poyet's side were finally picked off when Bellamy played provider for Maxi Rodriguez to set up Kuyt for what proved to be the clinching goal on 81 minutes.

His finish left Ankergren with no chance as Brighton's hopes were finally extinguished.

Liverpool host Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday while Brighton can go top of the Championship with a win at home over Leeds United on Friday night. They will be heartened by this performance, but will also hope that the breathless nature of such an encounter has not already taken the wind out of their sails.


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